Did Mariucci issue challenge to 'Skins in Osaka?

Steve Mariucci makes it sound pretty innocent. The Niners coach says a comment he made on the field after his team's preseason loss to the Washington Redskins in Japan was misunderstood, and then completely blown out of proportion. "That whole thing, from that eavesdropping quote, kind of snowballed," Mariucci said. "It had a life of its own, didn't it?" Yes, it did.

After the Redskins blasted the 49ers 38-7 in the August 3 American Bowl in Osaka, Mariucci was quoted as saying, "See you in six weeks," to Washington coaches after the game. The reference was that he was issuing a challenge and displaying some dismay for the Redskins and new coach Steve Spurrier going against standard protocol and running up the score in a meaningless preseason game. The national wire services picked up the story, and it spread quickly across the networks.

Mariucci said that was never the intention of his words. He simply was talking to friend and former coaching comrade Hue Jackson, the Redskins running backs coach who was one of Mariucci's assistants when he was head coach at Cal in 1996.

"This is the only thing I can think of where all that came from," Mariucci said. "I was visiting with (Jackson) after the game as we were walking off the field. And I must have said something like, ‘See you in a few weeks,' I must have said that cordially to him. I was talking about Michelle, his wife, and his kids and various things, and somebody must have been eavesdropping on our conversation."

Mariucci said he was surprised as anybody when he saw how the episode was perceived in the media.

"I saw it in the headlines the next day," he said. "And then, without anybody asking me - ‘Is that what you said, and who did you say it to?' - without anybody inquiring whatsoever, every network picked it up, every paper picked it up, and it grew legs, it became big, and I chucked the whole thing, because it must have been somebody overhearing our visit, and all of a sudden it became fighting words. It was amazing to me."

Mariucci said he spoke with Spurrier before the game and knew beforehand that the Redskins would keep their starters in the game much longer than the 49ers. "He had a certain game plan, we had a certain game plan, and he stayed with it, and we stayed with ours," Mariucci said.

For his part, Spurrier said - when he learned of Mariucci's comment - that he never believed Mariucci was sending an early challenge to his team for Sunday's regular-season rematch between the Niners and Redskins.

"You know, I don't really think so," Spurrier said. "I think he was just disappointed in the ball game. You know, his guys didn't play very well, and we were very fortunate to hit a bunch of third downs and guys caught a bunch of stuff. It just worked out. We hit some big passes. But I don't know. As I said after that game, nobody is going to give a dang two or three weeks from now. The only thing we proved that night was that our preseason team beat their preseason team. And now we're going to find out the real-season guys against the real-season guys."

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